By Dave Andrusko
The headline in the print edition of the POLITICO story was more colorful— “Obama Slump Dogs Dems in 2014 Midterms”—than the headline for the online story—“POLITICO poll shows mounting danger for Dems”—but both paint a dire scenario for Democrats in less than six months.
As opposed to a national poll, POLITICO polled “only those voters whose ballots really matter this year: states with competitive Senate elections and voters in competitive House districts,” according to Steven Shephard, who explained the poll’s methodology.
There are many important revelations in the new POLITICO poll which is the basis for Alexander Burns’ story today. But the two most likely at the top are
“In the congressional districts and states where the 2014 elections will actually be decided, likely voters said they would prefer to vote for a Republican over a Democrat by 7 points, 41 percent to 34 percent. …. Among these critical voters, Obama’s job approval is a perilous 40 percent, and nearly half say they favor outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Sixty percent say they believe the debate over the law is not over, compared with 39 percent who echo the president’s position and say the ACA debate has effectively concluded.”
And (after discussing how important various issues are to these voters)
“But none of those issues comes close to approaching health care as a major concern for midterm voters. Nearly nine in 10 respondents said that the health care law would be important to determining their vote, including 49 percent who said it would be very important.”
But the 867 likely voters were asked about abortion. Worth noting is that 30% said abortion is very important “in determining which candidate you support in November,” the second highest figure (behind only a question about guns) of any issue other than health care. Another 40% said abortion was “somewhat important.”
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On a separate question, POLITICO interpreted the responses in a manner that led them to conclude that “[M]idterm voters are more aligned with Democrats than with Republicans: 54 percent say they support the right to an abortion either with no restrictions (19 percent) or some restrictions (35 percent).” Actually, that’s a pretty good total, even though “some restrictions” is not a helpful way of phrasing the question.
As we have explained dozens and dozens of times, if after people say they support abortion in “some circumstances,” you follow the initial response with does that mean “most circumstances”? or a “few circumstances”?, the total number who believe abortion should be illegal in all circumstances or legal in only a few circumstances is close to 60%
So why are Obama’s job approval and the partisan ballot matchup “markedly more negative for Democrats in this poll than other national surveys”? According to Burns, it’s “a reflection of the political reality that the midterm campaign is being fought on turf that is more challenging for Democrats than the nation as a whole.”
And that may qualify as the understatement of the year.